Sep 16, 2007

{words & images carey}
Every year a grouping of cyclists, volunteers, and people living with *multiple sclerosis gather in La Conner, WA for the The Group Health MS Bike Tour. This event is held to raise awareness about multiple sclerosis and raise money to fund national research programs and local services for people with MS, their families, friends, and care givers.

For the past 4 years Raleigh has been a huge sponsor of this event; this was our 5th year participating. We rallied a team of ten and after a year of fund raising and a couple group rides, we assembled on Sept. 8th and 9th to ride 175 miles.

We were also graced with the presence of Neil Browne, editor of ROAD Magazine, who joined our team for the event. Here's a bit of what it was like riding for a great cause, riding with a stellar group of cyclists, and riding in one of Washington's most scenic areas.

The Team
Steve M. (President of Raleigh), Jan G. (Team Captain & Massage Therapist), Reed P. (Raleigh Marketing Director), Tim E. (Raleigh Purchasing Inventory Analyst), Monica R. (Former Raleigh P&A Buyer), Dave H. (Raleigh Director of Customer Service), Neil Browne (ROAD Magazine Editor), Neil, David G., Amanda T., & myself (Carey SH - Raleigh Brand Manger).

September 8th, 2007


After a 5:30am wake-up time in Mount Vernon, we were on the road with triple tall coffees in hand heading towards La Conner. The Tulip fields littering the area were covered with a fog that seemed to be sucked to the ground, rising no higher than the roof's of distant barns. The skies were clear, the air was crisp, we were fueled; it was going to be a good day for cycling.

{first couple pedal strokes of the Tour - Neil on the left Reed on the right}

{Jan G. our team captain, riding with three broken ribs and a huge smile}

{over the first bridge out of La Conner}

{approaching a bridge that would drop us into Anacortes, WA}

The first day of the event included four millage options for all participants: 35, 50, 75, and 100 miles. We (Neil, Reed, Dave,Tim, and myself) had ambitions to complete the 100 mile route; with a gorgeous day and beautiful scenery, it was hard to pass up the opportunity. Our entire team (see above) rode to the first rest stop together, where we fueled up on energy bars and drinks, then it was back in the saddle and onward to Deception Pass.

{Neil Browne overlooking Deception Pass}

*Deception Pass, located at the northern end of Puget Sound, is a treacherous, narrow channel with turbulent waters, rapid tidal action, and rocky outcrops. It separates the high bluffs of Whidbey Island from those of Fidalgo Island. In 1792, the English explorer George Vancouver named Deception Pass following its discovery by his navigator Joseph Whidbey; what they thought was a peninsula was an island (Whidbey Island) and what they thought was a bay was the deep channel dividing the two islands. The pass, posing as a bay, had deceived them, thus the name.*

Just past Deception Pass, Tim stopped for a while to say hello and have a pot of coffee with his parents, who were camping in the area. Neil, Reed, Dave H., and myself pressed on. This ride was my first 100 miles I have ever ridden in a single day. Though I had a good amount of base miles in my legs, I really had no conception of how I would feel on my bike for this long. Luckily, I was with Reed Pike (who has been riding bikes since he was 12, was a racer, and has been in the industry for over 30 years), Neil Browne (who also has been on a bike since he was 15, rides and trains with pros, and has a great sense of humor), and Dave Hull (who used to race and has been with Raleigh for a long time). To say the least, I was with an elite group of riders, so I was ready to learn, have fun, and hopefully keep up!

Neil was on our 2008 Prestige, testing the goods before its upcoming launch at Interbike. I will admit to sucking Neil's wheel for the majority of the ride, a great spot for observing his movements and skill on the bike. It seemed he was having a blast; when we hit hills, I swear he turned into a mountain goat---up out of the saddle bouncing from side to side, he looked stoked to be climbing. Neil definitely was the machine in the group, helping us all complete a swift 100 miles in 5 hours 27min. Everyone worked in a super smooth manner; it was nothing but pedals pushing, wheels rolling, strong headwinds, salty air, and laughter the whole time.

{Neil on our 2008 Prestige, note the custom naming on the toptube near the seat collar (smile)}

After rolling around Whidbey Island, we headed back over Deception Pass to La Conner. As we entered the Riders' Village, we were greeted with cheers and applause by a large grouping of people that are living with MS. Their applause resonated with cheers of thanks, and I have to admit that it was a bit emotional for me as we crossed the line. Not only had I accomplished something I have never done before (riding 100 miles), but I was also riding for those who can't. "Your movement to help in our movement provides so much hope and inspiration," said Richard Beeszhak, who lives with MS.

{coming to lands end and then taking a climb. Neil in front, Dave and I in the middle and Reed behind}
{Reed enjoying the beautiful farmland of Whidbey Island}

{the carcass's of abandoned bikes: the owners were filling their waterbottles and bellies}

{Neil resting his legs after the ride in the beer garden}

{Reed, Neil, and Steve M. enjoying the perks of 3 free beers, which every participant is awarded}

It was a really great day! Oh, and I forgot to mention the beer garden that welcomed us after our ride.

Sunday September 9th, 2007

Day 2 of the MS Bike tour: replay the first Paragraph from day one and then we are on our bikes. The routes to choose from on this day were 25, 35, 50, or 75. Yes, we went for the 75 mile route.

{morning character with Neil}

{everyone before the start}

Our route took us north of La Conner through the farm land of Skagit County, up through the hills near Bellingham, and then west to Chuckanut Drive. "Chuckanut Drive is a kind of super-hero of scenic byways. Bay views, country views, island views, mountain views and coastal views. Plus, you can eat fresh oysters, peer into tide pools on a secluded beach, or hike to a mountain summit, all right off the twisting tree-lined road."

The ride started out fast. We were all a bit excited to get a jump on another fantastic Pacific Northwest day, plus there were some pretty long straightaways, which Tim thoroughly loves; he was taking some monster pulls in the beginning. Not wanting to red line it that early with a good chunk of miles yet to go, we asked him to take it down a notch. We were all taking strong pulls and I finally realized how the teams of the Tour work together efficiently to conserve energy and move along at a stellar pace. It was a bit magical riding in a paceline with everyone on this day; we were all dialed and everyone was rocking it!

{Dave, Tim, Neil, & Reed}

After the lunch stop, it was back to La Conner via Chuckanut Drive. It was a pleasurable descent: fast, smooth sweeping turns, and long bay views. Back down on the flatland Neil was on fire. I slipped in behind him and we just cranked. We all knew it was about 15 miles back to town, so we took monster pulls once again; it was awesome! We were riding for an important cause, pushing our limits for the true hero's of the event, everyone living with Multiple Sclerosis.

We rolled into La Conner at 29 mph, charged, relieved, excited, and delighted to have ridden a weekend of 175 miles to help with the continued research to help cure MS.

A huge thanks to Jan Gelederloos (our team captain), Rosanna Jensen (event coordinator), the volunteers, everyone who has donated, everyone who came out for the ride, and to everyone else involved.

Another shout goes to Neil Browne for being our guest rider in the event and documenting the ride on his blog in real time.

For more info check out these links:

National MS Society Washington Chapter

*Multiple sclerosis interrupts the flow of information between the brain and body and stops people from moving. We believe that moving is not just something you can or can’t do, but that moving forward is who we are. Just by being here, you are connected to the potential, the hope, the momentum of it all. With the help of people like you, the National MS Society addresses the challenges of each person whose life is affected by MS and helps them stay connected to the great big moving world.*

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